The G20 Trade and Investment Ministers’ inability to produce a joint communique after their recent Ministerial meeting in Jaipur came as a surprise to none. The Western powers were adamant about criticising Russia’s war on Ukraine, while Russia and China would have none of it.

What the meeting did produce was an outcome document and a chair’s summary with many stated good intentions, including those for the MSMEs. But there was nothing concrete in terms of their delivery and implementation.

What could be of concern to developing nations such as India is the clever insertion in the outcome document of praises for the ongoing rich-country-led ‘Joint Statement Initiative’ (JSI) effort at the WTO in areas such as e-commerce and investment facilitation. This is despite the fact that the legality of the JSI initiative has been questioned by India, South Africa and some others as it is a plurilateral effort backed by a group of countries while being opposed by many others.

India and others have not allowed areas like e-commerce rule making and investment facilitation to be introduced at the WTO through the regular multilateral route. They believe multilateral rules in these areas would limit their policy making space and put smaller firms at a disadvantage.

Nonetheless, the G20 Trade Ministers’ outcome document clearly mentioned the “positive role” the JSI in investment facilitation and e-commerce could play in building physical and digital logistics infrastructure, enhancing supply chain resilience and promoting growth and prosperity. Although the statement also notes the concerns of G20 members that do not support the JSI initiative, those have not been detailed.

As we have seen in the past, the developed nations use the G20 platform to push their WTO agenda, be it trade facilitation or fisheries subsidies. The continued muscle flexing of the rich nations in such forums is disappointing.